The PTE Newsletter: Friday 15 October

Her critics would rather Ms Trunchball taught their kids, but to those opposed to the ‘woke orthodoxy’, Katharine Birbalsingh is a breath of fresh air as the government’s new Social Mobility Commissioner.

Dubbed the UK’s ‘strictest’ headteacher, Katharine rose to stardom at the Tory party conference in 2010 with a speech about Britain’s broken education system.

Don’t forget one persons “too strict” is another’s “safe and orderly”.

As always, this isn’t the only news this week. Netflix’s hit show, Squid Game has also caused a great deal of controversy amongst parents and teachers.

So perhaps instead of binging the series, you can sink your teeth into some of the stories we have featured in this week’s news roundup…

Choosing a School: Visiting School Open Days

In the last piece we covered three really important sources of information that families can use to come up with a shortlist of school preferences: Recent applications data, school websites, and local word-of-mouth.

In this article we are going to cover visiting school open days and what to ask.

Schools will generally advertise their open days on their websites. Some schools are still running virtual open days due to the pandemic, but if they have them in person, it is well worth booking to go along and really get a feel for what goes on behind the school gates.

Student Tour Guides

Every school wants to make the best impression possible. So some may handpick their most eloquent and polished students to take prospective parents on a planned tours of the campus.

Don’t take our word for it, take Geoff Barton’s, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. He admits, schools will always wheel out their star pupils for the open evening: “They’ll choose the pupils who are their ambassadors.”

So don’t be afraid to quiz these ‘star pupils’. Ask them about their achievements and whether they’ve made any progress from year to year. Ask them what they enjoy the most about their school – and what they like least.

Find out how discipline is managed. What are the expectations – and the sanctions?

What extra-curricular opportunities are there? Are they open to all, or just select students?

How about SEN? What are the provisions and are SEN students supported to achieve their true potential?: READ MORE HERE

Latest news & views

BIRBALSINGH APPOINTED SOCIAL MOBILITY CHIEF: We learnt this week that Katharine Birbalsingh, the headteacher of the Michaela Community School, who has attacked “woke culture”, has been appointed as the government’s new Social Mobility Commissioner.

Secretary of State for Equalities, Liz Truss said Birbalsingh’s approach to teaching, “expecting high standards and not indulging the soft bigotry of low expectations”, had helped to give children the best chance in life and hoped she would bring that approach to the commission.

TORY COUNCIL BACKS DOWN OVER ACADEMIES PLAN: An exclusive in School’s Week highlights how a Conservative council in Swindon has ditched plans to convert all schools into academies by 2025. This comes amid the new Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, appearing to strike a more conciliatory tone on academisation than his predecessor.

Swindon council’s cabinet was due to approve plans on Wednesday to “support” 25 maintained schools and 18 standalone academies to “proactively move towards” joining multi-academy trusts.

The move sparked fears of forced conversions. But David Renard, the council leader, warned without a “strategic approach”, remaining maintained schools risked being “left out in the cold” and council finances could suffer.

Baroness Barran, the new academies minister, even backed the move, calling it “innovative” and telling Schools Week she looked forward to seeing a “positive impact”.

EDUCATION SECRETARY ADDRESSES THE NAHT: Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, addressed the National Association of Head Teachers last week. General Secretary of the Union, Paul Whitehouse said that if the government “expects schools to be successful at helping all pupils as we emerge from the pandemic” then they need to “stick to their commitments, particularly around funding”.

When questioned about diversity, Zahawi told the conference there are not enough black headteachers working in schools in England, and more are needed to improve inclusivity and representation.

SEX EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS: Teachers need help to talk to parents about new sex education lessons and “win their hearts and minds”, a leading charity has warned. Coram Life Education, which provides relationships and health education to children, said it has been “inundated” with requests from schools for support with teaching the new Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum.

Sex education lessons are now mandatory in secondary schools. Teachers are expected to discuss issues including consent, sexual exploitation and abuse.

MINISTER FOR SCHOOLS SAYS NEW INITIATIVES WILL BOOST TEACHERS’ CAREERS: The new Schools Minister, Robin Walker MP, says the government is now investing a huge amount in teacher development as part of the education recovery, reflecting the fundamental role that quality teaching has in order to support young people back from the impact of the pandemic.

Backed by £184 million, the programme will deliver 150,000 NPQs to teachers and leaders across the next three years, with the plan being to help level up education across the country, while continuing to support the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people.

SQA EXAMS 2022: Next year, the Scottish government is planning for students to once again sit external national exams after the coronavirus pandemic forced their cancellation for two years in a row, and now the Scottish Qualifications Authority has published the 2022 exam timetable.

HEADTEACHER SENTENCED FOR RUNNING ILLEGAL SCHOOL: A headteacher and her father have been sentenced for the second time for running an illegal unregistered school in south London after a crackdown by the schools watchdog Ofsted.

It is only the second time a prison sentence has been handed down in connection with operating an illegal school, out of five successful prosecutions, which Ofsted has said is just “the tip of the iceberg”.

Have a great weekend!